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Three teens killed in car accident . . .
Tragedy Strikes Youth Ranch Family

from the June 2002 Newsletter

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June Barney 1985 - 2002 Carissa Dobens 1985 - 2002 Jeff White 1986 - 2002

By Angela Moreno-Tijerina

On Wednesday, May 15, at about 12:45 p.m., a tragedy of indescribable proportion fell upon the Youth Ranch family. Traveling towards Kerrville on Highway 27, three of our children were killed instantly in a head-on automobile collision during the lunch break at Ingram Tom Moore High School, where they were students.  Fortunately, the other driver survived the accident with only minor injuries.

Those who perished were three of the brightest and kindest children ever to come to Hill Country Youth Ranch. Each of them was a leader among our other children, each a model of grace, courage and responsibility.  At tender ages, these children had known far too well the aches of painful childhoods, and had come to us looking for a fresh start, and a place to call home.

We have all lost a great deal with the deaths of these beautiful young people. We have lost a part of our family, and nothing can be more painful than that.

As we grieve our loss, we also wish to celebrate their wonderful lives, and we dedicate this newsletter to those who left us way too soon. We write this in memory of June, Carissa, and Jeff.

June Barney was a 16-year-old, originally from San Antonio, whom we affectionately called “June-Bug”.  She was filled with laughter and couldn’t help but share it with everyone she met.  Oftentimes, she would stop by the office, not needing anything in particular, “just to say hi” and share with us the joy of one of her contagious smiles.

Always eager to help, June wrapped Christmas presents for the other children and was looking forward to joining in the summer play doing “anything you need me to do”.  June loved to sing at Chapel services on Sundays and was taking drum lessons, planning to form a band this summer with other Youth Ranch residents.

Carissa Dobens was a Kerrville native and also 16 years old. She lived at Cannon House, the home she shared with June, her best friend, and five other girls.  Carissa was known as “the peacemaker” at the Ranch, never wanting to see other children squabble or disagree.  She loved to read and dance, and was excited about the dance class she had recently joined.  In the evenings, after everyone was home, Carissa would make milkshakes for all of the girls in the house to enjoy.

Jeff White was 15 years old and came to us from San Antonio. His charismatic personality and easygoing nature made him a magnet, and others were drawn to him.  He enjoyed sports and was looking forward to playing on the football and basketball teams at Ingram High.   Immediately upon arrival, Jeff had decided to do something to help others, and was a volunteer at the local elementary school, reading to the younger children.

These children were special and unique.  They also shared similarities, and stood on common ground with one another and with other children at the Ranch.  They shared in a courage, a strength to start over and rebuild, just as a small child struggles to repair a stack of blocks that has toppled to the kitchen floor.

Undeterred by past situations, they were determined to become productive and responsible adults, and were well on their way.  For these reasons, and so many more, we miss them . . .

On Saturday, May 18, over 500 mourners lined the sanctuary and spilled into the halls and onto the front lawn of the First Presbyterian Church in Ingram as we gathered to say our good-byes.  Our chaplain, Doug Lanier, spoke about God’s enduring love for us all as we attempt to make sense of this tragedy.   He offered the analogy of a mother eagle pushing her young eaglets out of the nest, teaching them to fly.

“She doesn’t offer warning, she just nudges them out, sending then hurling towards the ground,” Doug explained.  “What we must remember is that the cruelest thing she could have done for them is to leave them in the nest, especially when she has such great plans for them.”

Left, Jonah Priour, age 14, played special music at Service for friends.

While it is with the heaviest of hearts that we share the news of this tragedy with you, our extended family, we take comfort in the knowledge that three of the brightest stars we have ever known are now watching us from heaven.  June is smiling her broadest smile ever, Carissa is dancing with the lightest of angel’s feet, and Jeff is dribbling a basketball, making new friends.

I once read that “no one is gone as long as he is remembered by someone”.  This said, June, Carissa and Jeff will live on in our hearts and our family forever.

Right, crosses were placed on Junction Highway by Youth Ranchers, at the spot of the accident, to memorialize the three who died.